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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    4

    Unhappy High Water Bill From Leak

    We recently had a broken water line in the front yard of a home in Tennnessee that I rent. My neighbor informed me that their yard was flooded and that I might have a water leak. As soon as I was aware of the leak (on October 3) I called our Utility company and our landlord. The utility company said that it was on the property owners side, and they could not fix it. My landlord had someone out the next day to repair the problem. It was caused by a large tree in the front yard breaking an underground galvanized pipe. The plumber laid new pipe to the house. My problem came when I received my bill and it had $2700 for wastewater and $1080.91 for water. Usually we use around $20 worth of water. The utility company has agreed to remove the wastewater charges, but says that their policy is not to refund any water charges. I called my landlord and she said that I am responsible because I didn't notice the problem sooner. The only indication the previous week was a small puddle under a tree where water tends to stand any time it rains (due to the shade of the tree). I am planning to take her to small claims court, but was wondering if there are any Tennessee laws to protect a tenant in this situation. The house is over a hundred years old and is surrounded by large trees with old underground pipes. She is aware of the problems from trees and has us put root killing crystals in the toilet every month to help prevent problems to the sewer line. Any advice you can provide for this situation will be helpful.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
    Posts
    73,721

    Default Re: High Water Bill From Leak

    The sewer/water bill is in your name?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: High Water Bill From Leak

    Yes, the water bill is in my name

    Joe

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
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    73,721

    Default Re: High Water Bill From Leak

    I don't suppose I should even ask, but... did you have rental insurance?

    It's your water bill, so the water utility is going to expect you to pay it. If you can get some money back from your landlord, great, but in the meantime you may wish to work out some sort of installment payment plan with them.

    There is some question in my mind as to whether your landlord properly maintained the property. As you indicate, there is a history of problems with the pipes leading to the landlord instructing you to insert root killer into the sewer system. I am inclined to agree with the landlord that, from the point in time that you knew or should have known of the leak, you would be responsible for the increase in your will. But I'm not sure when a court would fix that date (if at all prior to your receiving the high bill), and you may have a claim for reimbursement of the water cost prior to that date based upon the landlord's failure to maintain the pipes. I am not sure how a court would ultimately decide your case.

    If you make this an issue, such as by taking your landlord to small claims court, be prepared to move as I doubt that your landlord will renew your lease.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: High Water Bill From Leak

    I was aware of homeowners policies that cover high bills from leaks, but none of the renters policies covered these bills, they seemed to cover my personal property. Is rental insurance available to cover the bill from a pipe bursting outside rather than replacing personal property damaged by the water leak. Our leak did not damage any property.

    We are planning to go to small claims court to get some reimbursment. We originally signed a lease in October of 2005. In October of 2006 she said she would bring over a new lease for us to sign but never did because she had surgery of some sort. We never did sign a new leasein 2006. In September of this year she called to see if we would be staying for another year. We informed her that we were planning on moving in August of 2008 and she agreed to let us stay on for 9 months and just keep the terms of the original lease from 2005. I just recently got involved in real estate and to the best of my knowledge we either have and oral lease for 9 months ending in August of 2008 (which is hard to enforce being oral with the only witness being my fiancee) or when the first lease expired we switched to a periodic tenancy month to month with the ability to terminate the lease with 30 days notice. Which of these descriptions about our situation takes priorty or is easier to inforce? Will she be able to kick us out in 30 days if we win the lawsuit?
    Thank you for all of your help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,633

    Default Re: High Water Bill From Leak

    If you have a month-to-month tenancy, she can serve notice to end the tenancy at any time, even before the court rules on your suit.
    Quote Quoting Tennessee Statutes, Sec. 66-28-512. Termination of periodic tenancy - Holdover remedies.
    (a) The landlord or the tenant may terminate a week-to-week tenancy by a written notice given to the other at least ten (10) days prior to the termination date specified in the notice.

    (b) The landlord or the tenant may terminate a month-to-month tenancy by a written notice given to the other at least thirty (30) days prior to the periodic rental date specified in the notice.

    (c) If the tenant remains in possession without the landlord's consent after expiration of the term of the rental agreement or its termination, the landlord may bring an action for possession and if the tenant's holdover is willful and not in good faith, the landlord, in addition, may recover actual damages sustained by the landlord, plus reasonable attorney's fees. If the landlord consents to the tenant's continued occupancy, 66-28-201(c) applies.

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